There come occasions where a change of scenery is in the best interests of both parties; the player and then club involved. In the case of Nacer Chadli, West Bromwich Albion’s £13million record signing, parent club Tottenham Hotspur received a reasonable fee for the Belgium international winger and West Bromwich Albion acquired a player who would hopefully prove the solution to their attacking problems and lack of creativity. The Baggies were in desperate need of a playmaker, having netted only 34 times in their 38 Premier League games in 2015/16, but whether Albion and Chadli would prove a match made in heaven or hell remained to be seen.
His performance against a quickly fading West Ham United side at the Hawthorns will have delighted the new Chinese owners, not to mention manager Tony Pulis, after the record acquisition already showed early signs of coming good on the investment that went into his transfer. If managers do get a £13 million, not to mention a record signing wrong, club directors are often all too happy to wield the axe. Though the former Stoke and Crystal Palace boss can rest easy on this showing, with Chadli’s double helping West Brom race into a four goal lead over the Hammers before the visitors pulled two back in four minutes, the match eventually culminating in a 4-2 win for the Baggies.
Despite giving two goals away, Chadli’s performance won the day for the hosts and also made a little history to boot. It was the first time a West Brom player has been directly involved in four goals in a single Premier League match, and fittingly it was Chadli who hit the accelerator – coolly scoring a penalty after just eight minutes to put the home side in the driving seat after Arthur Masuaku’s handball.
Chadli was a thorn in the side of the Hammers defence throughout in a more central role, flanked by Matt Phillips on the right and James McClean who occupied the left flank. More often used on the left himself at Spurs, Chadli excelled in the central role and popped up to haunt the Hammers again on 37 minutes, showing opportunism to pick up the ball after Angelo Ogbonna hashed a clearance, and he duly teed up Salomon Rondon to fire in low across Adrian and into the bottom corner.
But Chadli’s tormenting of the visitors wasn’t over, and he was involved once more before the break. His opportunistic streak showed its colours once again, when the Belgian picked up the ball after the Hammers failed to clear a corner, and he steered a shot towards goal which was latched onto by the grateful James McClean for the Baggies’ third, and Chadli’s second assist of the day.
There was more a touch of fortune in his second assist than in his first. However, it was Chadli’s incisive runs and passing which also caused the visitors problems, besides his penchant for capitalising on defensive errors. This was executed to perfection when Albion broke away on the counter in the second half, Salomon Rondon striding away from the defence whilst Chadli made a tireless supporting run alongside. The Venezuelan unselfishly squared the ball for Chadli to tap into an empty net and put the hosts in cruise control, the first ever four goal haul for the Baggies under Tony Pulis.
Chadli’s performance also demonstrated a clinical streak within his game. He scored two of an overall three attempts on goal, the other being the assist for McClean, and his one key pass in the final third was turned into a goal, as that pass became his assist for Salomon Rondon, who returned the favour in the second half.
The Belgian was at the heart of Albion’s efficiency all afternoon. The visitors enjoyed 70% possession yet the Baggies managed one more shot on target with six compared to the Hammers’ five, scoring of course from two thirds of those attempts.
Chadli didn’t necessarily put in a performance akin to that of Lionel Messi, dribbling beyond players for fun, but he was ruthless when he had the ball, and finished accurately with two of his three shots yielding goals. Punishing opposition mistakes is an important part of thriving in the Premier League, and Chadli did just that against West Ham’s poor defence. His penalty which got the Baggies rolling was surprisingly the first penalty he’d taken in the Premier League, coming on his 90th appearance in England’s top flight, which may just show that the record signing will be far more of a feature in the main cast of West Bromwich Albion’s league displays. He also took charge in his new role in the hole after an ineffective debut the week before on the left against Bournemouth, with an overall match pass accuracy of 83%.
Tottenham Hotspur fans were quick to vent their anger at the player’s departure on social media outlets and of course Chadli’s contribution and the depth he offers will be sorely missed as Spurs look to negotiate a Champions League season alongside their domestic commitments. On this showing however, their loss is certainly Albion’s gain- and why the Belgian was growing tired of bit-part appearances was clear as he started a new era at the Hawthorns in fine fashion; the record man at the heart of all that was good about West Brom on Sunday. If he can replicate this form consistently for his new club, then he could soon see himself amongst the main men as the Baggies look to push themselves up the table and make the transition from mid-table mediocrity to top ten contenders.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Kevin Airs.